The parable of the Good Samaritan (cf. Luke 10:25-37) could be called a story of one ordinary person speaking to another. Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli Tutti not surprisingly recalls it within the theme of universal fraternity, considering it within the reach of all. It is the heart of the pope’s reflection on this theme (occupying no less than 20 sections of the encyclical), and also his central point of reference: “Although this Letter is addressed to all people of good will, regardless of their religious convictions, the parable is one that any of us can relate to and find challenging.”
First of all, the realistic way the question of fraternity is posed in Luke’s text is striking. This is clear from Jesus’ answer to the question of the doctor of the law (“Who is my neighbor?”), an answer that is by no means theoretical. Jesus is not making a theoretical pronouncement but presents a scene of raw violence in which we can all recognize ourselves. At the same time, that very situation of suffering and need unexpectedly turns out to be a place where one can meet one’s neighbor, literally “the one who is nigh, that is, close to me,” beyond all differences of language, class and religious faith.
In the face of a realistic situation, the question is reversed and the listeners are questioned in their precariousness: “When you have been in trouble, who has been close to you?” This is an intimate question, touching the desperate need to find help. And when one thinks back to those situations, one sometimes discovers with amazement that often the rescuer is not the physically closest, the relative, the acquaintance, but the perfect stranger, the distant one, the casual passerby. This is the scenario outlined in the parable: a parable that is, without doubt, very realistic.